This Article is From Mar 21, 2023

CBI To Challenge Withdrawal Of Red Notice Against Mehul Choksi: Sources

Mehul Choksi will now be able to fly freely to any country.

Mehul Choksi fled to Antigua in 2018. (File)

New Delhi:

The withdrawal of the Interpol Red Notice against fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi, accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank of over Rs 20,000 crore, enables him to freely fly to any country, making it difficult for India to locate and initiate further extradition proceedings from that country. A Red Notice issued through the Lyon-headquartered agency enables India to locate the fugitive and initiate extradition proceedings. Government sources have called the Interpol ruling "biased".

Sources said the Central Bureau of Investigation will formally file an appeal challenging the Interpol decision. Central probe agencies, through the Ministry of External Affairs, will also challenge the Antiguan court order in the alleged kidnapping case that formed the basis for the withdrawal of Red Notice, they said.

"Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya have been declared fugitives and their proceedings are going on, but for Mehul Choks, I have taken a stay on a fugitive proceeding from the Mumbai High Court," Vijay Aggarwal, Mehul Choksi's lawyer, said.

More than the withdrawal of the Red Notice, the Interpol order is a huge embarrassment for the government, as it reportedly accepted the contention that the plot to abduct Mehul Choksi in 2022 was at the behest of the Indian government.

The cancellation of Red Corner Notice (RCN) will, however, not affect the case which is already in the advanced stage. There is a treaty in place -- the moment Choksi will be arrested, the due procedure will be followed and action will be taken appropriately, government sources said.

"The report from the Antiguan police, and the evidence adduced by Mr Choksi in the ongoing High Court proceedings in Antigua, point to an alarming case of state orchestrated kidnap, torture and attempted rendition by the Indian government. The decision of Interpol to delete the Red Notice strengthens these concerns," a spokesperson for Mehul Choksi has said.

Choksi fled to Antigua in 2018 and currently resides in the island country. Interpol had opened Red Notice on the plea of the Enforcement Directorate over money laundering allegations, based on which the fugitive diamond trader was located in Antigua.

Choksi challenged the Red Notice in Interpol, citing an alleged 'abduction' plot. "I was abducted from Antigua to Dominica with the ultimate purpose of deporting to India," he told Interpol, adding that he will not receive a fair trial or treatment if returned to India.

The Red Notice is the highest form of alert issued by the 195-member country-strong Interpol to law enforcement agencies worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.

The Interpol had issued the Red Notice against Choksi in 2018, nearly 10 months after he fled from India in January that year to take refuge in Antigua and Barbuda, where he had taken citizenship.

The CBI has charge sheeted both Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi separately in the scam. The CBI was pursuing Mehul Choksi in a criminal case, and Enforcement Directorate in a case related to money laundering.